July 13, 2015

Cassette Tapes

Image and text by Gabrielle.

You know that scene in The Incredibles, where Mrs. Incredible calls her husband at work and tells him that after 3 years, they are officially moved in? Because she finally managed to unpack the last few moving boxes? Well, we are totally living that same scenario at the moment. Wednesday will mark 2 years since our move to Oakland, and I have a handful of boxes that need unpacking and that I’ve been ignoring since we arrived here. I’m determined to finish tackling them this week.

Probably the smart thing to do is just throw them all out, since I can’t remember what the contents are, and since we clearly haven’t needed whatever is in those boxes for 2 years. (Actually, they’ve been boxed up for almost 5 years, because they were packed before we moved to France). But alas, I can’t help myself. I want to go through each one and make sure there’s nothing we will miss, before I eventually toss the rest.

I started last Friday and look what I found: Cassette Tapes!!

Now despite what those unpacked boxes are communicating, I’m actually decent at purging. And I don’t have a full tape collection in all its glory. I downsized many years ago. In fact, I only saved 5 cassettes — each one kept for sentimental value. There’s the first cassette I ever owned, a gift to me from my dad for my 11th birthday, Starship: Knee Deep in the Hoopla. (I listened to We Built This City approximately 1 million times while choreographing dances with my 6th grade bestie, Renae Gardner.)

Then, there are 3 tapes from local bands — including my brother’s band, Fumbling Planets. And there’s also 1 mix tape I saved, a Christmas gift from a high school boyfriend. I remembering saving it, thinking it would be fun to be able to show my kids a glimpse of what it was like when I was a teenager. (I kept a few issues of Seventeen and Sassy magazines for the same reason.)

But I’ve never actually shown the kids, because they were a little too young to care when these tapes were packed up years ago. Which means, finding these felt like striking gold! And in a further stroke of good luck, we actually own a cassette player at the moment — something that has not been true for most of our marriage.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait for my kids to hear their Uncle Josh’s first album. I threw the tape to 17-year-old Ralph and said with a big grin, “Go turn it on!” And then saw the expression on his face and immediately realized: he has no idea how to work a cassette tape. None. He’s never put one in a tape player. He doesn’t know about rewinding and fast-forwarding, and that you just have to sort of guess when to stop if you’re rewinding in search of a specific song. He doesn’t know about turning the tape over so you can listen to side 2. None of my kids know any of this!

It was such a trip showing them how it works. It was for sure the oldest I’ve ever felt.

And of course, the whole time I was getting a major dose of nostalgia. Those songs I hadn’t heard in so many years, but that I know by heart! I started wondering what the last time I listened to a cassette tape was and I couldn’t remember. I bought my first CD player during my sophomore year of college — 1993 — ushering in the end of my cassette tape collection and the beginning of my CD collection. And these days, I only have a handful of CDs. Like a lot of people, my music collection is mostly mp3s.

It made me wonder: do any of you still have cassettes? Your whole collection, or just a few? And if yes, do you have a way to play them? For readers in their twenties or early thirties, have you ever used a cassette tape? Have any of you ever introduced them to your kids? I’d love to hear your stories!

P.S. — I found myself trying to explain to my kids how important music was to me and my friends as a teenager. That we would memorize whole albums. There was no Youtube. No Snapchat. Music was everything. You too?


A Few Things

July 10, 2015

Blairs and Clarks

By Gabrielle. Photo by Ben Blair.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I hope well. I was traveling yesterday for a funeral and arrived home late last night — and then, this morning, I opened my laptop and started reading the amazing comments you wrote on my blog anniversary post. I am so touched! I can’t even tell you. I’ve been getting weepy all morning at your sweet words. As soon as I finish this post, I’ll respond to as many as I can.

And while I work on that, here are a few things that I thought you might find interesting:

- Colorado’s effort against teen pregnancies is a startling success.

- I totally have an obsession with tiny houses, but this article still made me laugh (warning: some cussing).

- “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.” Do you agree?

- Since we’re staying closer to home this summer, this guide of 30 places every California Kid needs to see is inspiring us.

You don’t have to hate anyone to be a bigot.

- Compelling new ideas about how to discipline children.

- Three kickstarters I bookmarked:  We Brave Women, and the LooGun. And this one I’m especially excited about. It’s called Everyword. It’s a crowd-sourced, really visually compelling site, that my nephew and niece are starting, where every single scripture in the Bible will get its own page, and then anything ever written about that individual scripture (both academic comments and more casual comments), or art inspired by that scripture, will be referenced on the page — it can incorporate all types of media. Free to use and completely non-denominational. And they only want $10 max donations.

- So fascinating. The mixed up brothers of Bogotá.

- Three cheers for a Malawi Chief who annulled 330 teen marriages and enrolled the girls back in school.

- Famous films re-edited to highlight Hollywood’s race problem.

I hope you have a totally relaxing weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already!


P.S. — The photo at top is from Wednesday. We spent the day in the city with the Topher & Lisa Clark family. In the photo, we had just picked up ice cream at Ghiradelli Square. Topher is one of Ben Blair’s earliest childhood friends, and they both married just a few months apart from each other. They are one of our favorite families. After hitting all the tourist sites, we came back to our house and ended up letting all the kids stay up watching movies waaaayy too late, so we could talk into the wee hours of the morning. Made me super happy.


By Gabrielle. Illustration by the super talented Erin Jang.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ve likely agonized over taking any sort of medication that could potentially carry risks. “Will it hurt the baby?” is a phrase probably uttered many, many times over that nine-month period, right? And usually, if our doctor assures us it’s all good, then it is.

But what if our doctor is wrong? What if the worst of nightmares comes true and suddenly the medication we took that was most assuredly fine was most definitely not fine? What if it does hurt the baby?

This is a story about that nightmare come true. Almost. Please join me in welcoming Sara Gillis. I hope the lessons she learned will help you get through your own moment when you feel like you’ve just let down the world around you. We’ve all had one or two of those, haven’t we?

Sara’s story, straight ahead.


Nine Years

July 8, 2015

Muir Woods

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Friends. It’s my blogging anniversary! Nine years ago today, I started Design Mom (here’s a link to my very first post).

Nine Years!

Over 6000 published posts. And another 60+ in drafts from over the years that may or may not ever see the light of day.

There are all sorts of related things I want to talk to you about. Things like the awesome phone call I had this morning concerning a super cool new series for the blog. I want to tell you about the insanely talented designer I reached out to for a blog redesign. I want to tell you about the podcast on parenting that Ben Blair and I are thinking about starting. (Sidenote: Would that interest any of you?). I want to to discuss blogging in general; how it’s changed, how it’s remained the same.

I would love to reminisce too! I want to remember when I used to have “guest moms”. I want to think about the first house tour (there have since been 195!), the long-running Secrets to Living Well column, the DIY posts. I want to ponder 2013 — the year I had a ton of regular contributors. I want to make a list of significant blog moments (things like the first giveaway, and the first award). I want to think about all of the different people who have helped make this website grow and thrive.

And I want to hear how long you’ve been reading! Are you new to Design Mom? Have you been reading since New York? Do you remember when Flora June was born in Colorado? Did you start reading when we lived in France? Do any of you remember the Ask Design Mom posts?

I’m fully aware that this blog would be nothing without YOU, the readers. And I’m forever grateful. I mean it from the bottom of my heart (and understand how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true). Thank you for reading!

P.S. — One of our favorite families is visiting from Utah, and we’re spending the day in San Francisco, but I’ll be thinking of the remarkable Design Mom Community all day, and promise to jump into the conversation as soon as I’m back at my desk.


By Gabrielle.

We are catching Flora just prior to her family’s embarkment on a fabulous adventure. If you’re dreaming of packing it all up and stealing your kids away for a year abroad, you’ve landed on the perfect post to inspire you. If you’re trying to choose between a city hustle and bustle existence or a slower paced life, Flora’s words will be a comfort. If you’ve been hoping for a wake-up call to push you in your right direction, there is a paragraph or two just for you. And if you’re trying to find the courage to paint a boldly blue kitchen nook, this is also the place to be.

One more thing. Flora apologized for her writing skills when she sent me her interview. I forgot to tell her that commas don’t really matter when you’ve written something that makes others smile and feel like they can accomplish just about anything, and suddenly realize that our dreams aren’t so far out of reach. There. I just did.

Please enjoy Flora as much as I have!

Hello, everyone! We are Chris, Flora, three-year-old Zoe Jane, and one-year-old Leo.

Chris is a freelance motion designer, an artist at heart since he was little. He has drawn, painted, and loves all things creative, and so to say he is passionate about his career is an understatement! His head is constantly solving design problems or coming up with new looks for clients.

I am also a freelance designer and mama, born in Mexico City. Design is something that comes second on my list of priorities. Most of my days consist of being a mother and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have been obsessed with pregnancy and newborns since I can remember, so becoming a mama has been the ultimate dream come true. Being a mom is everything I hoped for and more.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!


Santa Cruz Boardwalk Swings

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

I woke up this morning with all sorts of little things I wanted to talk to you about:

1) Crowds are on my mind today. We did a few big things over the weekend (you can see photos here). On Saturday morning, we went to a parade, and then we spent the afternoon in Santa Cruz. The night before, we went to the A’s game and stayed for fireworks (which is maybe my favorite summer tradition — if you get a chance, DO IT!). In all 3 cases, there were big crowds.

I inherited a trait from my father — an intense craving to be where all the action is. So I feel like I’m always the first to sign up for whatever exciting thing is happening. But oh man, in actuality, it completely wipes me out! It’s like, I can’t wait to get there, and then I can’t wait to leave. Hah! How about you?

2) We met with an architect! We are finally ready to move forward with our master bedroom/bath renovation, and we’re making some big changes to how the current space is used, so we wanted to talk with a pro. The architect’s name is Erin Conner, she ‘s the mother of one of the kids at our elementary school, and she is fantastic. We love her work! Lots of modern, clean lines — her style would be perfect for this house.

We also loved how honest she was with us. I’ve spent two years imagining this space and feel like I have a solid plan. She could see that. She said we didn’t necessarily need an architect for this project and then she spelled out exactly what she would be bringing to the table, so we could clearly see the benefits and associated costs. She also offered to consult on an hourly basis, which I was delighted to hear, because sometimes I can really use an architect’s opinion.

We’re speaking with some contractors too, and then we’ll need to decide if we want to go directly with a contractor or work through an architect first. Either way, we’re super excited about getting started on this renovation!

I’m prepping a post where I share the current floor plan of the master bedroom & bath so I can explain what our plans are and show the before pictures. We’ve done some big projects in this house, but I think this is the biggest by far. I’m in the stage right now where none of it can happen fast enough — once I get the vision, I want to start demolition immediately. (Did I tell you I was excited about this project? I’m so excited!)

3) Is there such a thing as a cold where the only symptom is being tired? I took two different naps yesterday, plus I slept in! I didn’t feel sick, but I was pretty darn worn out. Hah! I’m feeling much better today.

4) Funerals are on my mind. Ben Blair and I will be in Utah on Thursday to attend one. It’s my second trip to Utah for a funeral in the last 2 months. When my dad died, it meant a ton to me that people came to his funeral. I was 22 years old, and it was the first time I understood that the funeral is for the living, not for the dead. My father didn’t care if anyone came to his funeral. He was dead. But it was such a comfort to me and my siblings and my mother.

Ben Blair and I both have big families and can’t attend everything — we miss baptisms and new babies and all sorts of events. But since my father died, we’ve tried hard to attend funerals — at least, the ones that affect the people we love. We can’t always make it work. In France it was often too difficult to take a last minute trip like that. But we try.

It makes me wonder. Do you have a policy on funerals? I know everyone is different. I have friends who really can’t bear to attend them at all.

5) Last summer, we traveled quite a bit. We took an epic road trip, touring around National Parks with our exchange students. And Ben and I took an amazing  trip to Sweden as well. But this summer, we’re barely traveling at all! Instead, we’re mostly staying close to home, and working on the house.

There are some exceptions. The older girls went to Girls Camp. Ralph is going to scout camp. And 4 of the kids will attend Cousins Week in St. George. But we don’t have a big family trip on the schedule.

I’m a little worried I’ll regret it. I’m wondering about fitting in some weekend trips here in California, or even just exploring the Bay Area. And I’m also trying to figure out if Ben and I can fit in a trip for our anniversary next month. We’ll see.

What about you? Do you have any big trips this summer? Or are you staying local?

6) Have you seen Me and Earl and the Dying Girl? Ben and I saw it last night. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I thought it was really good! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Anyway. Lots of random things. Feel free to discuss anything above. Or, consider this an open post — if there’s something you want to chat about, even if it doesn’t relate to anything above, feel free!


A Few Things

July 3, 2015

Betty and Flags

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy Independence Day Weekend! Any fun plans? We’re heading to an Oakland A’s game tonight. After the game they invite everyone down on the field to watch fireworks. It’s pretty magical! It always happens on July 3rd and it’s an Oakland tradition.

On Saturday, we’ve got a hike in the redwoods and a family picnic back at our house. Then on Sunday, I hope we get to sing a bunch of the patriotic hymns. They’re some of my favorites! Don’t you feel like America the Beautiful has some truly epic lyrics? I mean verse 2 and verse 3? So good!

I’m signing off early this morning, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- I met the author of this essay, Clementine Wamariya, at the AYA summit last year. She is young and remarkable. The article is long form, so set aside a little time, because it will blow you away.

- The trailer for the cyber-seniors documentary looks super sweet.

- Feeling like you want to give up? I found this self-care printable really calming.

- My friend, Jane, sent me these Soludos slip-ons in gold and I’m in love! I’ve been wearing them like crazy.

- If you’re still feeling troubled by last week’s ruling on marriage, you may find these two links helpful. 1) A talk from an orthodox Rabbi on moving forward. And 2) this sincere offer from my friend Laurie. (I think it’s a public post, but if you can’t see it, let me know.)

- A world of languages (embarrassingly, I hadn’t even heard of several in the Top 23).

- The keynote presentation videos from Alt Summer are live!

- I keep thinking about this essay — ”Something I Wrote Once About Dating When You’re Plus-Sized.”

- A new contract made for writers/bloggers/designers/illustrators or anyone else who gets asked to work for free.

- Summer reading recommendations from an author.

- A conversation with white people on race (part of a series of mini-docs made by the NYT). If you’re feeling like it’s awkward to talk about race you might relate to this. Thanks, Jessie.

Father daughter beatbox battle. (I love how happy the dad is when she clearly outdoes him.)

- Will you be grilling tomorrow? Here are some awesome tips!

I hope you have a festive, happy weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Personality Tests

July 2, 2015


By Gabrielle.

Yesterday, a friend shared this link to a free 10-minute Meyers-Briggs personality test. Do you know your Meyers-Briggs classification? Apparently there are 16 options. And until I took the test yesterday, I didn’t know mine. I remember taking a similar test years ago — it must have been when we lived in New York — though I wasn’t paying much attention to the results and don’t recall what they were. But I come across Meyers-Briggs references frequently, and sometimes wish I had a better understanding of the whole thing, so when I saw the 10 minute test link, I thought, why not?

Well, I took the test and the image above is a screengrab of the results. Turns out I’m an ENFJ. Immediately upon reading the results, I had about a million questions. Here are a few:

1) How accurate do these tests tend to be? Meaning, if people take a test like this once a year, do they always get the same result? Does it tend to be a permanent designation, or do personalities change over time?

2) Of course, it’s a total vanity feeder to find yourself sharing a personality with Bono, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Sheryl Sandburg. But obviously, admirable people are included with every personality designation. If you’ve taken the test, did you like the people listed who shared your personality? (I can’t imagine they ever list someone that is historically hated — like, hey, you share a personality with Stalin!)

3) If you’re someone who has taken the test, have you studied the description of your personality type? Do you know the personality types of your spouse or kids?

4) Do you consider yourself an advocate or fan of Meyers-Briggs tests? Do you take your results seriously? If yes, have you ever figured out how to improve a relationship based on what you learned from Meyers-Briggs descriptions? Has it ever helped you as a spouse or parent?

5) If you do counseling professionally, what’s your take on Meyers-Briggs? Do you find the tests accurate or valuable?

6) According to the test website, ENFJs “are a rare personality type and make up only 2% of the population”. But I was discussing my results on Facebook and there were a whole bunch of commenters that were also ENFJs. Certainly more than 2%! Does that mean I’m drawn to fellow ENFJs and have a higher percentage among my Facebook Friends?

So many questions! I would love to hear your Meyers-Briggs stories. I’m super curious. If you already know your personality type, I hope you’ll jump right in to the discussion. And if you don’t know your personality type, feel free to take the test, it’s super fast, I promise.


The (FREE) trick to stopping poison oak and poison ivy rash before it starts!

By Gabrielle. Poison Ivy botanical print found here.

Oh my goodness. At the moment, there is a major portion of my brain fixated on poison oak and poison ivy. Turns out I’m highly allergic! And I’ve been battling some intense poison oak rashes for months. I’ve had shots, used up dozens of tubes of prescription cream, and taken one million showers to ease the itch. (Oh the drama! Hah!) Remember the red dress I wore to the Iris Awards? It was chosen because it covered my poison oak rash all over my arms and legs.

Happily I think I’ve finally got it under control. So three cheers for that! But while it’s still on my mind, I thought I’d jot down the most helpful things I’ve learned about it in case anyone else out there is dealing with it too. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about poison oak and poison ivy since we moved to California:

1) Poison Ivy is found in the East. Poison Oak is found in the West. There’s Poison Sumac too, but I don’t know where it’s found.

2) Not everyone is allergic to these plants, but most people are — 85% of people have some sort of reaction. I seem to be on the highly allergic end. I swear, even if I don’t touch any plants at all, if it’s nearby I seem to break out in a poison oak rash. Luckily, no one else in the family (Ben Blair or the kids) seems to be quite as affected as I am.

3) The rash is intense. It goes deep and gets these nasty weeping blisters. So gross! For me, it doesn’t seem to improve at all on it’s own. I have to get medical help before I see improvement.

4) To ease the pain, someone recommended taking a super hot shower and putting the rash under the shower stream. She said to hold it there until it’s like a “good” pain. I followed the advice and found it totally works for me. Doing this can relieve my pain and itching for up to an hour. Though I should also note, no doctor has ever mentioned this to me, so I don’t claim it’s an official treatment. : )

5) Once it clears, you can see the scars of the rash for months and months — I had some on my leg that lasted a full year.

6) The thing that causes the rash (and that both poison oak and poison ivy have in common) is urushiol oil. It’s invisible, but it can rub off from the plant onto clothes or shoes or skin, or onto gardening tools or pretty much any surface.

7) Apparently, the urushiol oil stays toxic indefinitely. So if your garden rake comes in contact with poison oak, and then you put the rake away for the winter and don’t touch it again for 6 months, the oil would still give you a rash when you pick up the rake again.

8) Washing with soap and water doesn’t necessarily remove the oil. It’s intense stuff!

9) The rash doesn’t show up instantly. It can take 8 hours or more. So again, you may not even know you’ve come into contact with any of the plants or oil until the next day — at which point it’s too late to wash the oil off before it does damage.

10) Because you can’t see the oil, it can come into your life without you knowing it. Perhaps on your kids’ shoes, or on something like bike tires. Which means, it’s possible to get the rash even if you haven’t left the house!

Turns out number 10 is real the nightmare part for me. Our yard is like a bit of forest, and in the wild parts, poison oak thrives. We’ve removed as much of it as we can — and hired professionals to help too — but sometimes it grows back faster then we can keep up with it. So when the kids go exploring (which we want to encourage), they might run into some by accident, and then bring it home on their clothes or shoes. Or maybe the soccer ball gets kicked through a patch, and then picked up so the oil transfers to hands, and then the hands pick up the mail as they come inside, and then I open the mail, and then I end up covered in a rash.

But yesterday, I feel like I had a breakthrough in my poison oak battle. My friend Laurie shared this video on Facebook and I found it so helpful! Apparently the trick to getting the oil off is using a washcloth instead of plain soap and water. Take a peek:

Pretty awesome, right? I feel so much more confident about keeping the rash at bay now. Hopefully, some of you find it helpful too!

Tell me, friends: Have you ever had a poison ivy/oak rash? How about your kids? Do you have any tips that worked for you? Or any other pieces of info you’d add to my list? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — I hear there is a scientist working on a specific light bulb that will make urushiol oil visible. That would be amazing!



Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Minted. Don’t miss the $700 Minted Giveaway at the bottom of this post!

I’m super excited to show you today what we’ve done in the entry! Let’s start with some background: When we first moved in, the area right inside the front door was floored with tile, which transitioned to rug. (You can see a peek of the tile in this post.)

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

The entry is an open area, with no front closet or storage, and it’s separated from the living room by the brick fireplace. To the left, as you enter the home, there is a hallway — and you may remember, that we transformed that hallway with cubbies and hooks to help with the non-storage in the entry. We also replaced/refinished the floors in the whole area, and whitewashed the brick fireplace with milk paint.

At that point the entry was bright and clean and simple and we’ve kept it that way pretty much ever since. But it’s a big enough space that I knew I wanted to do something more with it. So from time to time I’ve experimented. At one point, I tried a little love seat in front of the bricks, and when I wanted a holiday display in the entry, I would roll the hallway cubbies in and cover them with a tablecloth to act as a temporary console table. Though, really, it’s mostly been empty and waiting patiently for some attention.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

So over the last couple of weeks, I tackled the space and I’m delighted with how it turned out. Here’s a description of my design process:

First, I added a rug. It’s a rug that my sister Jordan picked up on a trip to Morocco and used in her apartment in Paris. I’ve tried the rug in the girls room too. I don’t know if it’s quite the right thing for this space, but I’m testing it out. I like the look here, but may need something more durable with all the foot traffic — I’m thinking I might want to go with a Dash & Albert indoor/outdoor rope rug — they can be scrubbed and hosed down!

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

For a table, I wanted something versatile that could display holiday or seasonal decor sometimes, but also function as a desk when needed. I chose this one from West Elm. It has a marble top, but you can also get it with a wood top or a glass top. I though the marble would be a nice mirror of the marble coffee table that resides on the other side of the fireplace.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

Once the table and rug were in place, I turned my attention to artwork. I wanted something neutral that would fit well with the other pale surfaces we have going on in this space, and that I could put other colors nearby or in front of without causing problems.

I love using Minted for artwork, because they source all their prints from independent artists! (In fact, if you’re an artist, you can totally try one of their design challenges.) Many of the prints they offer are limited edition, and everything is available in lots of sizes — so you can go BIG or small. You can also choose a frame right when you’re ordering, which means your artwork will arrive ready to hang in about a week.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

The Minted artwork collection is quite big. There are so many good options, it can be hard to choose! So this is how I did it. I first started favoriting everything I liked that was in a neutral palette. If it spoke to me at all, I favorited it. After awhile, I took a look at my collection of favorites and realized I had saved several circles. That gave me an idea — I thought it would be fun to do six prints, two rows of three. And I decided to use circles as a theme. I measured the space and determined what size artwork would work best (I chose the 11″ option).

At that point, I started using search filters (Minted has tons of filters — you can search by editors’ picks, by color, by shape, by artist, etc.) and found all the possible neutral-colored artwork that featured a circle shape in a square. There were 15!

Next, I narrowed down those to my favorite 6 — I had the kids voice their opinions too so that everyone felt invested. We ended up choosing Natural, Mineral 03, Surround Me, Moon Rock, Fox Shadow, and Under The Microscope (in gold foil!). To finish things off, I chose a natural wood frame to mesh with our “treehouse” vibe.

Keep reading to see this space styled in two other ways. Oh! And you’ll find the Minted Giveaway at the bottom of the post.


By Gabrielle. Photos by Becky Kimball.

When Jane Rhodes invited us to take a fresh peek into her family’s Utah home, I recalled how much we all enjoyed the 2012 tour of their Boston home. Remember? The kids’ bedroom decor reflected their unique personalities and interests at the time, there was enough space carved out for everyone even if it meant a reading nook took residence under the staircase or a craft table was stuffed perfectly in a tight window space, and there were those cute extra beds in the master bedroom waiting patiently for nighttime visitors of the small kind!

It was all so thoughtful and refreshing.

Fast forward a few years to a new residence in Utah. It’s a treat to see how the family’s needs have changed as the kids have grown, and how their decor style has simplified. There’s now a fresh emphasis on how they’re using their spaces – not just how they’re decorating them. I love when that happens, don’t you?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a home quite like this one, and I thought you’d be interested in seeing it, too! (Oh! And for those of you with teens, Jane needs your advice on curfews!) Welcome, Rhodes family!

Our introduction might take a while – there are six of us plus a puppy!

I am a lifestyle blogger, artist, graphic designer, and mom of four. After completing my art degree this December, I plan to attend grad school. I love creating movies, photography, planning events, traveling, reading, gardening, running with our puppy, spending lazy days at home with our family, getting involved in humanitarian projects, and riding out a pretty big Wayne Dyer kick.

My husband, Dusty, and I live in the beautiful mountains of Orem, Utah. Neither of us thought to claim Utah as our home state, but we’ve now been here longer than our own native states, so we’re claiming it! And our children really like it here, so we’re staying put for now.

My husband is my dreamy college love who planned on going to med school after playing football and in the process founded a sports wear company. Dusty Rhodes (I like to call him by his full name – I like the ring to it!) decided to ditch med school and spend his days submersed in sports-related projects. Yet, he still claims to know more than anyone else in our home about medical issues. I feel it necessary to tell you he’s a Red Sox fan. That detail alone occupies a big part of our life. We claim it a miracle that we’ve stayed together for 20 years this year and haven’t killed each other.

What is it like to have four children? In Jim Gaffigan’s words: “Imagine you’re drowning. And someone hands you a baby.” We constantly function in survival mode.

Meet the rest of the family and see more of this amazing home! Just ahead.


Do You Paint Your Nails?

June 29, 2015

By Gabrielle. Adorable manicure found on The Glitter Guide.

So many heavy topics lately! I don’t really mind — I like a good, serious conversation. But today I woke up needing something a little lighter. So how’s this for light: Have you ever taken your kids for mani-pedis?

On Friday, I took Betty and June for their first professional manicure and pedicure. They’ve both had their nails painted by their older sisters many times over the years, but they’ve never been to a nail salon. We went on Friday when June was finished with her last day of school. June has been asking to have her nails painted for months, but her current school doesn’t allow nail polish, so I promised her that we could get a mani-pedi when summer vacation arrived.

It was really adorable. Both Betty and June took a loooong time deciding on a color. I don’t blame them, it feels like a very important decision once you’re there. Betty chose royal blue for her fingers and a slightly lighter blue for her toes. June chose glittery purple for her fingers and glittery orange for her toes — she had a particular dress in mind, which she was planning to wear to a party that evening, and she wanted to match the nail polish colors to the dress. : )

Every time a new step in the process would happen, they would look to me in wonder, like is this really happening? You could practically see the exclamation points on their faces:  The water has lights that change color! There is tissue between my toes! There are funny sandals to wear while your nails dry!

I told them they could say no thank you if there was a part they didn’t like — if their foot felt too ticklish when the heels were scrubbed, or if they weren’t in the mood for a hand massage. But they seemed to enjoy every single second. In fact, as soon as we’d finished and were back in the car, June said, “I want to go again!”

When Maude and Olive got back from Girls Camp on Saturday, I asked them how many times I’d taken them for mani-pedis and they both said only once! Apparently, I have been really stingy with the nail appointments. : )

And it made me wonder: Not counting a basic trim with nail clippers, how often do you do mani-pedis with your kids? Do you do them at home? Or go to a nail salon? And how about for your own nails? Do you paint them or keep them natural? Do you do it yourself or hire it out? And is there anyone reading that has never had painted nails?

I’ve had natural nails most of my adult life, because my hands are so busy that I can’t keep my painted nails from chipping in less than 24 hours. Ugh! But when we got home from France I tried shellac/gel nails (the kind you put under the blue light) and on me, they remain chip-free for a week. Sometimes even a bit longer! The downside is both gel and shellac totally weaken my nails. I’ve also tried a polish called Vinylux that is my current favorite. It doesn’t weaken my nails, but it lasts much longer for me than regular polish. I can usually go 4 or 5 days without a chip. With the new-to-me polish discoveries, these days, my hands almost always have polish. Quite a shift for me!

How about you?

P.S. — Don’t waste your old nail polish. Use it to marble everything in sight!


A Few Things

June 26, 2015


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

WHAT A WEEK! This is a pretty dang exciting time to be alive. So much change and discussion is happening that the air feels electric! I hope everyone, no matter what their personal opinions are on current events, can take joy from the excitement of seeing history happen before our eyes.

balloon banner DIY

I’m feeling nothing but LOVE today! There are rainbows in my social media feeds, we’ve got cousins and friends in town, and the weather is gorgeous.

Oh. And we’re all going to a fun party tonight — if you’re in the Bay Area, you can come too! It’s a BrightLab Lights Pop-up Party at the darling shop, Mapamundi Kids in San Francisco. 5:00 this evening (Friday), details here. I’ll see you there!

balloon banner DIY

And now, a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- From the NYT: Why I defaulted on my students loans.

- John Oliver’s piece about online harassment.

- Why airplane tickets never get cheaper.

- “Stop asking me how I afford to travel.”

- What’s killing the babies in Vernal, Utah? (So alarming. Fracking!!! It’s been on my mind since I read the novel Bone Hollow — I was on a panel at Mom 2.0 with the author, Bill Braine.)

- What if we treated all consent like society treats sexual consent?

- “The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans.” — What this cruel war was over.

- Hah! Every state flag is wrong and here is why.

- I support the Humane Cosmetics Act.

- A tribute to a father.

- Love this.  Touch the pickle!

- A black man and white woman switch places.

- Make a rainbow balloon banner to celebrate.

I hope you have an amazing weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



One EASY trick for a magical SUMMER!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. Sponsored by Blue Diamond.

This week, I’ve only had half the family at home. Maude and Olive are at Girls Camp — Ben Blair is there too, helping with river rafting and hikes. And June is still in school! (Can you believe that? Her last day is tomorrow.) So at the start of the week, I had Oscar and Betty make a “summer list”. I feel like we haven’t made one for years! But it was one of our favorite things to do when we lived in New York. The concept is simple: you take an oversize sheet of paper, or a poster board, or piece of recycled cardboard, or whatever you’ve got on hand. Then have your kids help you make a list of everything they want to do during the summer vacation.

Do this one EASY thing and your kids are practically guaranteed to have a magical summer.

It can be anything. Big things like an already scheduled camping trip to Yosemite that everyone is looking forward to. Or little things like visiting the library, trying a new recipe, climbing a tree, making a movie, or building a blanket fort. Really, the more “small things” on the list, the better it is. Once the list is made, we put the stuff that needs planning — like any overnight trips, or a day at the beach — on the calendar. But the rest of it, the small stuff, makes for daily spontaneous adventures.

Do this one EASY thing and your kids are practically guaranteed to have a magical summer.

When the kids get bored, they can look at the list and easily come up with something to do. In New York, we only had little kids, so all the activities were little kid activities. But these days, some of the activities appeal more to the older kids, some to the younger kids, and some are for the whole family.

We make our list long. We know we probably won’t be able to fit in everything. But that’s okay, because having a long list, full of so many ideas, helps us do more than we would if we didn’t have the list at all. And whether we make it through most of the list, or barely half, the result is the same: by the end of the summer, everyone can look at the list and see the proof that summer vacation was absolutely magical.

This bucket bag is perfect for summer outings. Throw everything in and go!

One of the first things we did after we made the list? We went on a Secret Stairs hike. What’s that you ask? Well, it’s from this book, called Secret Stairs — it’s full of self-guided hikes that take you all over the hills of Oakland and Berkeley. With the rest of the kids gone this week, those of us at home were needing an adventure, so we thought this would be perfect. And it was. We quickly packed up snacks — our favorite Blue Diamond almonds — and off we went.

Have you ever taken a "Secret Stairs" hike? Click through for the how to.

The hike we picked was the first in the book, because it’s not too far away and we hadn’t tried it yet. It took us through a neighborhood called The Uplands.

Keep reading for our Secret Stairs hike photos, plus our favorite things to put on the Summer List.


Call It A Day: Anonymous

June 25, 2015

By Gabrielle. Glowing log lamps (next summer project?!) by Duncan Meerding, shot by Jan Dallas, via This is Colossal.

I wonder how many of you spend your days unable to tell anyone how it’s really going? Whether due to privacy, a fear for job security, or even shame, it must be one of the loneliest feelings in the world to keep all the struggles inside.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read through this day. At least four or five. Every time, it hits me a different way, my emotional responses fluctuating between heartbreak and pride and sympathy pangs of loneliness and a strong urge to hug this mom holding it all together. It’s different from the others in a few ways, but one you’ll notice immediately is its anonymity. Due to a need to protect the privacy this family, we’ll call the narrator of this day JG. I’ll let her tell you their story.

It is Wednesday. My day begins around 6:45 when I hear my five year old son open the door to his bedroom and dash up the stairs to his older sister’s room. I know she’ll go turn on the television for him, and the two of them will watch maybe an hour’s worth of TV. We’ve got the kids hooked on one our old favorites, Gilligan’s Island.

My middle child who is ten is now awake. I know this even though she doesn’t make a sound. I say a quick prayer for strength and patience to help me through this day. Then I check Facebook, Instagram, and my email because I enjoy being lost in the moment of make believe, if even for just 20 minutes. My son pops into my room to say that he’s hungry and asks permission to eat a chocolate-covered granola bar. That’s my cue. I leave my bed and start my work in the kitchen.

Wednesday, continued…


Let’s Talk

June 24, 2015

by Sarah James

By Gabrielle. Illustration by Sarah James.

Last Friday, on my weekend link list post, I mentioned that I wanted to talk about the horrific Charleston shooting with you this week. As I stated then, I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what to say either. There are deeply smart, endlessly eloquent people that have written, and continue to write, thousands of good, moving words on the subject of race in America, and specifically the brutal killings in Charleston. What can I add to the conversation? Well, probably nothing.

But that’s not the point.

The point is to have the conversation. To talk about this. To not just read and click “like” and move on. But to actually talk about this, to discuss it, to communicate about it. To share an opinion, and to be open to having that opinion change if necessary.

I can read something or follow a hashtag and shake my head in disbelief and shame, but if I don’t speak up and talk about this with everyone that falls within the sound of my voice (or the reach of my blog), then I’m adding to the problem, not helping.

If you have a platform, small or large — a website, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, an Instagram account, an email list, a group of friends at church or on the playground, a family — do you use your platform to help improve things? To discuss our world? To learn? To teach?

If not, why not?

Are you worried that you won’t say the right things? That you won’t be eloquent? Or worse, that you’ll say something offensive without even realizing it? Or maybe you fear you will be attacked? That people will argue with you, or tell you you’re wrong, or call you names?

Lots more discussion ahead.


Design Mom Book Report

June 23, 2015

Pottery Barn Corte Madera Design Mom_3

By Gabrielle. Photos from the Corte Madera Book Event courtesy of Pottery Barn.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written about my book, but I have several fun things to report. First of all, last week, I got a text from my publisher telling me that Design Mom: How to Live With Kids made the New York Times Bestseller list for May and June.

Whaaaat??? That’s such fantastic and unexpected news. I can’t even believe it!

I know that the book literally could not have made any list without the support that you, the Design Mom community, have so freely given. THANK YOU! Thank you for coming to the book tour events. Thank you for buying the book. Thank you for the Amazon reviews. (You are so awesome to keep them coming! I sincerely appreciate the feedback.) Thank you for the Instagrams, the Tweets, and the Facebook updates about the book — I know I’ve missed some of them, but if you tag your posts with #designmombook, I’ll do my best to find them : ) And thank you for telling your friends about the book. You guys are the best!

Pottery Barn Corte Madera Design Mom_5 Pottery Barn Corte Madera Design Mom_10

Other fun book coverage:

An article with my tips in the Washington Post.

A great review in Book Page.

Another one in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.

And I think I already mentioned it, but the SF Chronicle dedicated two full pages to my book!

Keep reading for more book tour reports!


By Gabrielle. Photographs by Robyn Wishna and also Emily Rothenbucher.

Rebecca Barry is the sweetheart storyteller behind the can’t-put-it-down book Recipes for a Beautiful Life. It’s a memoir that almost didn’t happen — more on that, just ahead! — overflowing with a hilarious, often touching, and always authentic recounting of living a creative life while raising a family and translating the pressure-filled reality that most of us face on the daily. An even shorter review? It’s a joy.

Her home and interview are unsurprisingly inviting — unsurprising to me because I was hooked from our very first correspondence, when she sent me this: “We live in a  brick Italianate house built in 1865 that we bought and have been working on since our first child was born. The house is beautiful and unruly, with original hardwood floors and pocket doors, old sun porches, and hand hewn moldings. We live in half of it, and the rest is filled with wonderful tenants: artists, musicians, beekeepers and barristas. It is on Main Street in a tiny rural town. I’ve attached some pictures of little moments in our house.” Yes, I was hooked. It sounded to me like a haven of sorts. A messy and creative refuge where creativity holidays and beautiful moments simply exist.

I’m inspired every time I re-read Rebecca’s words. And I really hope you are, as well! Welcome, Rebecca!

I live with my husband Tommy and our two sons, Liam and Dawson, who are 11 and nine. Tommy and I met in 1999 when we were both working in NYC for CosmoGirl! Magazine. On our first date in October, Tommy asked me if I wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Bermuda with him and his friend – a trip he’d been saving up for for five years. I said yes, and by New Year’s Eve I knew I would marry him. Neither of us proposed until months later – eventually we both did – but that night we were all asked to write down New Year’s resolutions that we would all read at the next reunion. The resolutions were written in private and sealed, and five years later when we opened them, Tommy had written, “I will marry Rebecca Barry” and I had written, “I will marry Tommy Dunne.” So the feeling was mutual.

Both Tommy and I work at home. I’m a writer — I write for magazines and I write books; my most recent one, Recipes for a Beautiful Life, just came out from Simon and Schuster in April. Tommy does copyediting for Glamour magazine, and a few years ago we started our own magazine, a local publication called Fresh Dirt Ithaca. It’s a profile-driven magazine about green living. This is a perfect place to write about that lifestyle, as we’re surrounded by organic farms and farm-to-table restaurants and people who keep coming up with innovative and delicious ways to live in harmony with the planet.

More loveliness ahead!


First Film Festival

June 22, 2015

First Film Festival

By Gabrielle.

I’m super excited to announce FIRST FILM FESTIVAL today!

It’s a brand new film festival for kids 18 years or younger, brought to you by Olive Us. Entries are accepted from now through the end of the summer — August 22nd. The festival will be online, so no need for participants to travel, and the prizes are fantastic:

Grand Prize: (valued at $2000+)
Canon Rebel T5i DSLR camera
Canon 50mm 1.4 lens
Professional tripod
Professional audio recorder and lapel microphone
Adobe Premiere
A year’s worth of movie tickets

1st Prize (valued at $1000+)
Professional audio recorder and lapel microphone
Adobe Premiere
A year’s worth of movie tickets

2nd Prize
A year’s worth of movie tickets

All participants receive a movie theater ticket, a festival t-shirt, and a certificate of participation.

Do your kids want to join in? They can enter here. The entry fee is $25 per film (and requires parental permission), and as I mentioned, entries are due by August 22, 2015.

So. That’s most of the pertinent info. But I’m betting some of you are curious: What is this all about? Why are we launching this new film festival? Good questions! And I can tell you that it all started with our Olive Us video series.

As you probably already know, we LOVE making short videos with our family. And our kids love making movies on their own as well! Because of this, we get emails from parents weekly, asking for tips on how they can help their kids make movies. What equipment do they need? What editing program do we recommend? What props do we keep around?

We love these emails and try to offer answers and tips in the Olive Us newsletter. And hopefully our answers are helping. We think they might be, because over the last couple of years, we’ve received additional emails from parents — but these don’t have questions. Instead, they have links to the awesome videos their kids have made!

As we were discussing how we could best celebrate those kid-made videos, it occurred to us that a film festival just for kids could be the perfect solution. So we explored ideas, came up with a name, bought a url, and now we’re launching First Film Festival!

Of course, as with everything we’ve tried with Olive Us (and really, with Design Mom too), this is an experiment. And we can assume we’ll adapt and change it over the years, or drop it if there’s no interest. But happily, we announced it in the Olive Us Newsletter last week, and sent the announcement to film camps across the country, and there has already been a TON of interest! We’re amazed and delighted at the response.

We envision this as a summer project for kids — a way for kids to focus their energy on a particular project and fight summer boredom, while creating something they can be proud of. And even if they don’t win, every participant will receive a t-shirt, a movie ticket and certificate of participation! For more information, you can check out the First Film Festival about page, or email Ben Blair.

So what do you think? Do you know any kids that would enjoy something like this? I’d love to hear! Oh. And feel free to tell your friends!


A Few Things

June 19, 2015

Chinatown Olive Blair

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are holding up? It was an awfully emotional week, right? Like you, I have felt like my head is on pause since I heard the terrible news from South Carolina. I keep searching out essays and blog posts to read about it because it’s like my brain somehow can’t comprehend it. It’s just awful. And it keeps happening. And it’s not getting better. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I want to discuss this in its own blog post — the shooting in Charleston, and the deeply embedded racism in our country, because we need to keep talking about this. So watch for a post next week. And for those of you catching up, here are some of the links I’ve been thinking about:

Jon Stewart

Soula Scriptura

Brené Brown


Latoya Peterson

Ah. And then there’s that conflicted feeling of moving on with life as I run errands and chauffeur the kids. Especially today, because it’s a super celebration day in Oakland. Today was the big Warriors parade and Oakland pride was at an all-time high! Of course, we went down to the parade, and LOVED seeing our city so happy.

Even with my brain on pause, I have high hopes that it’s going to be a good weekend. We have family in town and can’t wait to take them to our favorite spots in the area — and explore some new ones too. In fact, I think we’re going to try and visit Muir Woods this afternoon. We’ve never been there before — I hope it’s not too busy!

How about you? How are you holding up? In case you’d like some more links this weekend, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- It’s not just about bad choices.

- Did you see this teen’s anonymous Instagram account?

- Food as art installation. Thanks, Johanna.

- Aleah Chapin’s Naked Old Women (NSFW).

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — Busy summer is here! Maude has been interning this week at the amazing Floracultural Society. Olive is on a school campout. Ralph is on a scout campout. And the younger ones have swim lessons. How’s your summer schedule shaping up? 

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